May Books 2) 10 Billion Days & 100 Billion Nights, by Ryu Mitsuse

A relative got this for me, having spotted that it was being described as a great Japanese sf novel – in fact, it was ranked in a 2006 poll of Japanese readers as the greatest Japanese sf novel of all time. I was a little baffled at first, as we moved from Plato to Buddha to Jesus as incarnations of non-human entities; was this a Shaggy God story? Though I'll admit that it was very interesting to see a non-Christian writer's take on the New Testament, and in the end the Buddha and sf do seem to find a harmonious coexistence after exciting and occasionally confusing conflicts. I finished it rather puzzled; the book seemed to owe a lot to Childhood's End, and a little to the New Wave, but not much to more recent genre developments.

The mystery was resolved when I realised that 百億の昼と千億の夜 was published in 1967, so it's not very surprising that it reflects the concerns of that decade. It is the only one of Mitsuse's 20-odd novels to have been published in English; while the Japanese graphic story-telling tradition has a huge English-language following, this seems to be less true of unillustrated prose. While I regret not having better access to this particular tradition, I do hope that it's moved on a bit from 1967.